A 20-year-old Londonderry student believes he was violently attacked in the city centre at the weekend because he is gay.
Conol Cassidy, who studies Drama at the Ulster University, Magee, was on his way home from a night out with friends when he claims two men punched him in the face and called him a “faggot” and a “queer.”
“I was on my way to a shop near Guildhall Square with my friend and another young gay man when two men walked past us and one of them said the word ‘faggot’ under his breath.
“My friend told the two men they were out of order. I thought we’d resolved the matter because they started to walk away and so did we - the next thing I remember is the sound of footsteps behind me and the two men proceeded to ask the other young gay man and I if we were ‘faggots.’
“When neither of the two us answered their question they started to attack the guy beside me.”
Conol added: “I went to run into a nearby shop but I felt something strike me on the side of the face. One of the men was wearing a ring and it dug into the skin on my face.
“I couldn’t see because of all the blood, I held myself up against the shop to stop myself from fainting and I was punched again, they were laughing the entire time and ran away quickly after this - I could still hear them saying ‘faggots’ from a distance until they were both gone.”
Conol said he will not socialise in the city centre again as a result of the alleged attack.
“It was definitely a homophobic attack, the way that they kept asking us if we were gay proves this to me. I was attacked because I’m gay.
“Although this is first time anything like this has ever happened to me, as an openly gay man I no longer feel safe in Derry,” he maintained.
“I’ve decided to go public because I want the two men who did this to see what they have done - I want their parents to see what they have done to someone who is only in Derry to better himself,” said Conol.
“I also know that there are so many gay people who get attacked and do nothing about it because secretly they think they deserve it, I am not one of those people.”
Conol, who is originally from Belfast, became open about his sexuality six months ago.
He said he refuses to let the attack muddy his view of Londonderry and the people who live here.
“Derry is an incredible city and I am very happy to have moved here and I cannot let the minority of people, like those two men, ruin how amazing the city is,” he said.
“However, I’ve already told my friends I just don’t want to go out in Derry, I’ve only three weeks left until my semester is over so I am just going to finish it and go home as quickly as I can,” he added.
A PSNI spokesperson said the incident was being investigated.
“Police received a report of an altercation in the area of Guildhall Square in Derry during the early hours of Saturday April 16.
“Two males, aged 18 and 20, were treated at the scene by ambulance staff.
“The 18 year-old sustained a cut to his lip and the 20 year-old male sustained a cut to his eye.
“Police enquiries are continuing,” said the spokesperson.